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The History of Prohibition

In 1917 Congress passed the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution which prohibited the export, import, manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States. This new law is believed to have had the greatest effect on the twenties creating a feeling of rebellion and wild behavior. Many people thought this law violated there right to live by their own standards and have a good time.

The Volstead Act passed by Congress set up penalties to all violators of the Eighteenth Amendment. Prohibition is one of the best things ever done by the United States Government. It single-handedly created new business opportunities and brought people together like never before. It had also created a booming new industry, and created a new way of life for many people. Unfortunately, none of these things were good things. The new business opportunities were all in the organized crime realm. With the banning of alcohol they saw an incredible boom in business. No longer did they have to rely on robbery, brothels and cons. There was a whole new business out there and it was making millions.

Prohibition also united the American people more than anything since the World War. Everyone, from the poor to the rich, united to break the law. Even the police, yeah sure they will serve and protect, unless they find a better deal. The police were letting alcohol be made and sold right under their noses. The rich buy the booze to spice up their parties and the poor spend their time and money in bootleggers houses getting drunk. Rarely do the rich and the poor agree on anything. But, prohibition contributed to an increased sense of community and neighborly love.

Prohibition also brought big business to the small businessman. Alcohol making used to be done by all the large companies. With prohibition the big companies were put out and the small businesses had to meet the demand. This was what I was referring to earlier by creating a huge business opportunities for the hard-working little guy, rather than the large corporations. I suppose you could venture to say prohibition was like a modern time welfare. By saying this I mean rather than making the rich richer and the poor poorer, prohibition helped the poor lift themselves from poverty without the help of the rich.

Also prohibition had many benefits beyond the obvious. Instead of staying home and getting drunk men and women alike could get drunk in the company of other men. They can even get drunk with the local police officer. This contributed to trust within the community and a trust of authority figures.

Now, not only did the little guy see a business opportunity but the mob did too, and their involvement was getting strong. This was bad for the little guy because, what the mob did is, they would say to the little guy, you will sell your alcohol to me and I’m not paying more than (whatever) for it. Then they would make the bootlegger sell at a loss for them. If the little guy didn’t want to sell they had some trouble coming for them. The reason the mob did this is because they wanted to control all the alcohol going into a specific city. As you can imagine this brought forth some fairly large confrontations between rival gangs.

One of the most notorious gangsters of all is Al Capone. He was part of one of the most notorious gang massacres of this time. On February 14, Valentine’s Day, Four members of Al Capone’s gang Trapped seven members of their rival gang, headed by “Bugs” Moran, and brutally shot them in cold blood. Capone’s gang, dressed as policemen, cornered Moran’s gang members near a Chicago warehouse. They then told them to place their hands on the wall. Moran’s men, under the assumption that this was a routine police check, obeyed without resistance. Capone’s men then pulled out sawed off shotguns and sub-machine guns and shot the men in the back, firing squad style.

Finally after a decade of prohibition Alcohol was finally made legal again by the Twenty first Amendment on December 1933. In 1924, $40 million was taken in from smuggled alcohol. The government saw all the people making so much money off the illegal sale of alcohol and decided they want a piece of that action also. They figured that they could tax all the sales and with all that money it would improve the economy and the society. Sales of “bath tub gin” and “moonshine” went down. Speakeasies and gangs all died down. In a whole, I think the whole prohibition idea was a flop. All it did was raise the use of alcohol, produced crime, and killed a lot of people. But, on the other hand it made a lot, of I’m not going to say deserving people, but a lot of very poor people a lot of money.


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